Launching a Top 10 Podcast in Your Niche
Jack Conlon, Founder & Host of Top 10 Music Podcast 'TELT,' tells us all about how to get there fast
Not every thought leader intentionally shakes up their industry, and sometimes their journey is one that purely started as a creative expression and passion. If you've never thought about starting your own podcast, it hadn't actually crossed the mind of today's guest either. Today, I thought I'd shake it up and invite on our very own producer, Jack Conlon, who actually happens to be my brother.
Jack is founder and host of TELT Podcast, which is a regular feature in the Top 10 Apple Music Podcast Chart. What started as a desire to bring the backstage chat with music artists to the fans around the world, quickly turned into a successful podcast where he's interviewed some of the biggest names in music. What I love about Jack's approach to his podcast is his determination to stay true to his first concept of backstage chat, hosting all of his podcasts in person, giving the listener a truly authentic fly on the wall experience. I think it's the innovation and passion that really creates successful brands and businesses. And I'm excited to chat through Jack’s ideas with him.
Liv: Tell us a little bit about the thought behind the podcast.
Jack: The thought behind the podcast came from my experience in the music industry over the last two or three years of being in a band. We’ve played lots of gigs and met loads of really, really interesting people. Whenever you go to gigs and you speak to other artists, or you go to bars and you meet people in the industry, or you're working with people in the studio, you're always talking about your own experience. The chats are always really informative and interesting with loads of information.
I just thought, when I first started in music, I would have loved to have this sort of insight and I wasn't aware of anything that provided anything remotely like it.
Liv: Would you say being passionate about the subject you're talking about is one of the most important elements of a successful podcast?
Jack: One hundred percent. For example, when you watch music interviews on YouTube, you can tell when the interviewer is not totally into the artist and hasn’t done their homework that well and, if you as the audience can tell, then the artist certainly can as well.
It just creates a sort of disconnect between the interviewer and the guests. I think what works best for my podcast is that I'm so passionate about music, and especially the Scottish music scene, although I haven't been apart of it for that long.
I do get really excited for the podcasts, and all the guests I've had on are talented musicians who I admire, but they also know I do my research. They know I'm really passionate about bringing their story to their audience as well as mine. It eradicates that ‘distance’ between interviewer and interviewee and they trust you to represent their story fairly.
It's really important for these successful artists and people in the industry that they get the chance to almost speak for themselves for the first time, which is really important to me, and I think it's one of the reasons why people want to come on the podcast.
Liv: Why was it really important for you to stay true to what you initially intended of having those in person interviews? Podcasts can be quite commercial these days and it's all about volume, but you have always stayed true to the podcast’s roots.
Jack: For me, I like to make people feel comfortable and I think the best way for people to feel comfortable was in your presence. Doing it over the phone creates a physical barrier which can, in turn, create a mental and creative barrier.
For example, if I'm interviewing an artist and I've not actually met them before, I want the interview to come across as though we’re friends chatting in a bar. I think the best way to achieve that is to just chat to people before like a normal person; don't feed them any bullshit and just try to relate to them on a different level
What’s inevitably going to happen is they become much more relaxed in your company, and they'll tell you a better story because they feel relaxed and they trust you. The audience want to hear an honest account of a story because it’s an educational tool at the end of the day, so it’s really important to strike a chord with your guests to get that story.
Liv: The music podcasting scene is rather busy. Did you ever worry that you were headed into an oversaturated market and the podcast might fall on deaf ears?
It’s the most important thing. I know the audience because I am the audience. I'm making this podcast for me, because I always wondered why no one had done a podcast like this before and I know so many others would have thought the same. If someone else had started a podcast like this I would have absolutely loved it. So, I know exactly what people want to hear, and I think that's really important. I think we do have to have that almost community feel with TELT, it’s not just mine, it’s for everyone who’s interested in new music.
Jack: Of course, that’s always a worry whenever you start something new, there's always a danger and fear that it won’t work out. However, I'd never heard about a podcast like this one in Scotland, which obviously has a population of almost 6 million people and I never came across anything like this.
I knew I had an original idea and I thought, if it's something I'm going to be interested in doing, then it's going to be something that thousands of people are going to be interested in listening to. The interest in music in Scotland is incredible and I knew this was a niche podcast that would have a big interest.
That fear of failure drives you though, you don’t want to be another failed podcast, so you put everything into it. At least I did, anyway.
Liv: How important is understanding your audience?
Jack: It’s the most important thing. I know the audience because I am the audience. I'm making this podcast for me, because I always wondered why no one had done a podcast like this before and I know so many others would have thought the same. If someone else had started a podcast like this I would have absolutely loved it. So, I know exactly what people want to hear, and I think that's really important. I think we do have to have that almost community feel with TELT, it’s not just mine, it’s for everyone who’s interested in new music.
Liv: What did it feel like when you first found out you were in the Top 10 on Apple’s Podcast chart for music?
Jack: It was really surreal.
It was only something like two months after I had released my first episode, when I got an email today from a company called Chartable. They sent me an email basically saying, oh, by the way, you’ve charted with Apple Podcasts recently, come create an account with us so that you can keep track of your progress.
I had only released three or four episodes at this point. I checked it out and seen I was at number 10, which was mental! I looked back at my chart history, and I seen I had been at number two weeks before that!
I wasn't planning for the podcast to chart, the idea was to make people more informed about the Glasgow music scene and to provide insight for people looking to get involved in the industry. If two people listened to it and got something from it I would have been honestly really happy, it’s just a bonus that more people are really into it.
I'll be honest, if I wasn't so passionate about music, I would never have started the podcast. So I think it's so important to remember your why and why you started things. Don’t let that success distract you from what got you there in the first place. Stick to your core principles and don’t use download numbers as an indicator of success.
Liv: Would you do anything differently if you had to start over again and relaunch a podcast?
Jack: think possibly the only thing I would do differently is that I would try and build up more of a catalogue of content before releasing the first episode. That way you can release a burst of episodes when you launch and start on a high.
Fortunately for me, my first episode was really successful so, even though there was a wait for the second episode, people were really interested in what had to come next.
In hindsight I should probably have come up with a launch plan and I would definitely recommend to anyone looking to start a podcast to do that.
Liv: If I’m looking to put plans in place to launch a podcast, what are the first steps I should take?
Jack: Well, you need to make sure that you've got a niche podcast. If you’re entering into an overcrowded market, that can be ok too. As long as you have a unique take on your chosen subject you should be fine.
Investigate what your podcast is about and investigate its competition, make sure that you're going to be doing something very different from what your competitors are doing. If you're not doing something different, then you're just going to drown in the absolute ocean of podcasts out there.
Bringing your personality to the table is definitely the most important thing you can do. I know so many people who've started podcasts and just kind of stopped after three or four episodes because no one is interested as they weren’t bringing anything different to the table
After that, just put yourself out there. It’s very cliché but if you don’t ask you don’t get. I could never have dreamt that I would get some of the people on my podcast that I have, I thought I’d be lucky to get an email back! Nonetheless, they came on because I reached out and they wanted to help.
You should also speak to people who have successful podcasts that you admire. I reached out to the hosts of one of my favourite podcasts to ask about equipment and he got back to me really fast, and he makes £10k per month from his podcast!
Reach out and get some advice. I'm sure most of the time people would be more than willing to help as they’ve been in your shoes before busy. Once you do that it's all going to flow naturally from there. You will make mistakes along the way, but that's life, isn't it? You’ll learn from them and your podcasts will be better as a result.
Liv: What equipment do you need to get started?
Jack: Technically all you need to get started is a laptop.
If you’re a bit of a tech geek and insist on having the highest quality out there, then you’ll need a bit more. At least one microphone, a table top mic stand, an XLR cable and a USB Audio Interface and you’re good to go. You can get a very decent set up for around £100.
Liv: How long would you advise someone to prepare interviews for their podcasts? How long should they spend in that investigation phase?
Jack: This is really, really important. The last thing you want to do is go into a podcast interview unprepared and be struggling for content or questions.
There’s an unspoken agreement between you and your guest that you should know enough about them to interview them for a specific period of time. So that that is really important. It’s an absolute must.
So, whenever I do a podcast, I'm doing probably at least two hours research on the guests before they come on. And that's just for example, scrolling through their social media, and looking online to see what they've been saying. Listen to other podcasts they might have appeared on and think about how you can interview them differently and ask them different questions.
Ask them things they’ve maybe not been asked before. Your listeners are looking for that nugget of information they have not heard before.
So it's really, really super important to do your research. Your guests really appreciate the effort you’ve went to.
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